Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Disneyland with the Death Penalty

Thirteen years ago, a new magazine called Wired commissioned science fiction author William Gibson to write his first major piece of non-fiction, an account of his trip to Singapore. Since its publication, Gibson's article has become the Singapore travelogue against which all others are measured, powered by the immediately memorable description of the city-state as "Disneyland with the death penalty."

Another good line:

"Singapore is a relentlessly G-rated experience, micromanaged by a state that has the look and feel of a very large corporation. If IBM had ever bothered to actually possess a physical country, that country might have had a lot in common with Singapore."

The scrubbed and gleaming New Singapore was created by levelling Old Singapore, a notorious colonial fleshpot in which the most louche behavior could go unremarked. An example:

"Bugis Street, once famous for its transvestite prostitutes - the sort of place where one could have imagined meeting Noel Coward, ripped on opium, cocaine, and the local tailoring, just off in his rickshaw for a night of high buggery - had, when it proved difficult to suppress, a subway station dropped on top of it."

I will blog about Singapore when I get there. For now, I recommend Gibson's article.

"Disneyland with the death penalty," William Gibson, Wired, Sept/Oct 1993 (


Anonymous kiernan said...

blv kiernan lives there.

9:37 PM  

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